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CTI Research Scholar Blogs on Ritual & Religion

by William Storrar

Gordon Burghardt is a professor at the University of Tennessee and a member of resident research team at CTI this spring. His studies of animal behavior and the ways that other species interact with humans have lead him to explore the evolutionary origins of religious ritual, and he has a particular interest in use of snakes in worship in some rural Pentecostal churches. Recently, when a snakebite resulted in the death of a pastor in Middleboro, Kentucky, it made national headlines and raised questions about a ritual that many people find difficult to understand. Prof. Burghardt used his blog for Psychology Today to explain what these risky rituals have in common with more familiar forms of worship and religious life. You can read his essay here.